Pass-happy Eagles could take wide receiver

Posted: April 24, 2012

You can never have too many good wide receivers.

You can't in the modern era of the NFL with the league nearing a 60-40 balance in favor of the pass.

So while the Eagles would appear to be set at the position and not in the market for a first-round talent, if Justin Blackmon or Michael Floyd were to fall to them at No. 15 you can bet your Jeremy Maclin jersey that Andy Reid will snap up either one.

Taking a receiver with the top pick in this year's draft - which opens with the first round Thursday - would not make sense for the Eagles if they were looking to address their most significant holes from a season ago.

That would be on defense at linebacker, safety, and defensive tackle - and, sure, why not, cornerback, too. But the Eagles have been hammering the mantra of taking the best available player for months, and again, if Blackmon or Floyd is there, you have to take him.

Judging by some mock drafts, neither will be available. Blackmon, the 6-foot-1, 207-pound Oklahoma State receiver with hands of glue, is expected to be gone within the first six picks. Notre Dame's Floyd could jump ahead of Blackmon or go right on his heels.

But what if they were to slip a few spots? What if they were to fall into the early double digits? Does Reid pull the trigger on moving up as he did in 2009 when he bagged Maclin, even though the Eagles didn't necessarily have a pressing need at wide receiver?

That pick turned out well. Five rounds later, they took another receiver, Brandon Gibson. With leftovers Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown still on the roster, Gibson didn't have a place. But the Eagles found a spot, and when they were losing linebackers left and right, they traded Gibson to St. Louis for starter Will Witherspoon.

The point: You can never have too many receivers, and teams will give up plenty to get them. Even if the Eagles don't draft one in the first round - and it's likely they won't - there will be ample opportunity in the next two rounds, where they have three picks.

This year's class is stocked with talented ball-catchers. It's been the trend for years, and it will be as the league continues its evolution.

"If I showed you our draft board the past couple years, we have a lot more players on offense than we do on defense. We have a lot more receivers than we do corners," Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said last week. "And that's not because we're just trying to find wide receivers or we're not trying to find corners. It's just the nature of the college game. This is where we're picking from."

Stephen Hill of Georgia Tech, Alshon Jeffery of South Carolina, Brian Quick of Appalachian State, and Rueben Randle of LSU are all prospects larger than 6-3, 220 pounds.

Any of them would be a nice inside complement to flankers DeSean Jackson (5-10, 175) and Maclin (6-0, 198). Jason Avant has been the Eagles' sure-handed slot receiver for several years, but he wasn't as sure-handed a season ago and has been lost in the red zone along with the rest of the Eagles' smallish receivers.

"We have a big receiver - we have Riley Cooper - a guy who hasn't had an offseason," Roseman said. "And we've all seen him make some amazing plays."

Despite his size, the 6-3, 220-pound Cooper hasn't been used much in the red zone. He's only a fourth receiver, though, which would seem to suggest the needlessness of drafting a receiver in the first round this year.

Jackson signed a five-year, $51 million contract this offseason. Only $15 million is guaranteed, but he should be around at least for another two seasons. Maclin's rookie contract doesn't expire until after 2013.

But the Eagles are increasingly running three-wideout sets. How good would a triumvirate of Jackson, Maclin, and, say, Floyd look? Floyd has a DUI as a blemish on his record, an indiscretion that may have taken him off the Eagles' board in years past.

But Roseman spoke last week of the Eagles' evolution in regard to character concerns. If Floyd drops because of "character," could he fall into the Eagles' laps?

"If the Notre Dame kid drops to the third round," Roseman joked, "we'll be OK with it."


Contact Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745, jmclane@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.

Get complete coverage of the Eagles' 2012 NFL Draft in Philly.com's  NFL Draft special section.

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